Chocolate: Sweeter Than You Think
WE ladies love our chocolate; there’s no doubt about that. Many of us will find any excuse to eat it – PMS, headaches or a really bad day. Surely that must be bad for us?
There are many ‘super foods’ on this planet that provide us with unlimited health benefits, but who knew that the one and only love of many women was one of them?
It’s true. From a happier mood to a happier heart, chocolate is one of those foods you think you should avoid, but perhaps should indulge in once or twice a week.
Yes, chocolate, contrary to popular belief, has dozens of health benefits, but there’s a fine line between healthy and unhealthy so be careful.
Here are just a few of the sweet benefits of our favourite super food.
There are several studies that suggest chocolate can benefit your heart. The anti-inflammatory properties found in dark chocolate reduce cardiovascular risk, lower LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
A nine-year Swedish study carried out on more than 31,000 women showed that those who ate dark chocolate twice a week lowered their risk of heart failure by up to a third. Another study carried out in Germany suggested that a square of dark chocolate a day could lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attacks or strokes by almost 40%.
But how can this be? It’s all down to the antioxidants, called flavonols, which make the veins and arteries more flexible. One would think that chocolate would hinder a workout, but an Australian study suggests that exercise and chocolate can go hand in hand. By lowering the blood-pressure in over-weight individuals, chocolate can apparently aid exercise.
Believe it or not, chocolate can contribute to weight-loss. Research carried out in the University or Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is a high satiety food, which means it will fill you up quicker than its milk chocolate cousins. It also curbs those annoying cravings for sugary, salty or fatty foods. And, because of its high satiety, it’s a whole lot easier to stick to a small portion.
There is also research that suggests that dark chocolate can limit the number of calories you consume by quashing the action of certain digestive enzymes and preventing some starches and fats in other foods from being absorbed. This research has not yet been proven though, so don’t take it for granted just yet.
More research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that individuals who ate chocolate frequently had a lower BMI (Body Mass Index – a measurement of height relative to weight) than those who consumed it less often. This study was carried out on 1,000 people in California, aged between 20 and 85.
Well we knew this one already. That time of the month rolls around and suddenly our hormones go crazy and our moods are foul. Some women turn into monsters during this time. Enter chocolate.
Chocolate is an excellent mood-booster. It is the richest known source of theobromine, which is a little bit like caffeine. This may be what contributes to a good mood.
It also contains phenethylamine, which triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins. Serotonin, a happy hormone, is released, as is dopamine – the hormone associated with sexual desire, arousal and pleasure. Phenethylamine is released when you become infatuated or fall in love, so is it any wonder so many women fall in love with chocolate?
Anandamide is another substance found in chocolate. The word anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word “ananda”, which means “peaceful bliss”, which explains the feeling of bliss we get when a square of chocolate touches our tongue. Anandamide is a fatty substance, naturally produced by the brain, which binds to the same brain receptors as the cannabinoids found in marijuana. This produces a feeling of elation and exhilaration.
So go on and grab that bit of chocolate. You know you want to. But try to stick to dark chocolate (anything above 60%). Milk chocolate doesn’t quite do the same thing.
Photo credit to gojiberryblog.com